Bachir Ramadan plays the drums like a demon, only now, he uses his ferocious sounds to keep his nightmares at bay.
The Lebanese musician and drummer for regional metal powerhouse group Nervecell has been sitting behind the kit at home almost daily, pummelling away the trauma and anxiety of the past 12 months.
A victim of the August 4 Beirut port explosion, Ramadan says he's lucky to be alive.
His office, located within a four-storey building in Lebanon's capital, was only 800 metres away from the blast, which eviscerated the area, killing at least 190 people and wounding more than 6,500.
Ramadan remembers a blinding light, before emerging from the wreckage dazed and bloodied.
He spent three days in hospitals, where glass was removed from his face and eyes, and he was treated for several skull fractures and some nerve damage to his hands.
Playing through the pain
Ironically, Ramadan credits his daily regimen of jamming along to the thunderous sounds of Slayer and Rivers of Nihil for speeding up his recovery.
“After all the treatment in the hospital I had to go to physical therapy three times a week for about a month and a half to treat my hands," he tells The National.
“The fact that I was also playing at home for stress relief accelerated the recovery without a doubt. I am back to my full ability now, which is awesome.”
While Nervecell fans will be happy to hear that, the news marks only a small moment of optimism in what has been a torrid year for Ramadan and his fellow Lebanese citizens.
For one thing, those drumming sessions have occasionally had to take place in the dark or under natural light, because with Lebanon suffering a crippling economic crisis, Ramadan’s home only receives up to four hours of electricity a day.
Coupled with the crashing value of the Lebanese pound, which has rendered staple food items unaffordable, and the current lack of official accountability for the explosion, the mood in Beirut, Ramadan says, is grim.
“It is teaching me something about the recovery process in that is not a straight line and that it stops and starts,” he says.
“And that is especially the case here in Lebanon as there is always a new obstacle thrown at us to stop us all from healing. There is an anger in the streets in that no one is taking responsibility for what happed at the port.
“People don’t understand how important that is for those who suffered directly and the country as a whole to heal.”
Post-traumatic stress is palpable in the streets, Ramadan says, but with the explosion affecting all facets of society, citizens are freely sharing their own experiences for comfort.
He and his colleagues often share stories from that day as they work from their new office, now located a 30-minute drive from Beirut port.
“In that sense, that has brought a lot of people together here in Lebanon,” he says. “And it’s not like a lot of us are scared to talk about it or we are skirting the issues.
“We accept what happens will be part of us for ever. The conversations are not easy, but they help.”
There are some things it's too soon to confront, though, he says. He admits that seeing the gaping hole that was once the port on the drive to work can trigger bouts of anxiety.
That said, he has found solace and comfort from friends and family.
The international metal community also rallied in support of an injured comrade. “Man, I can’t tell how emotional it was to get all these messages from artists and people who I don’t know. I mean, this is what the metal community is all about,” he says.
“I remember I got a message from [US group] Overkill, who Nervecell played with some time ago in Bangalore, India. They reached out to me and even posted on their page what happened and I was really blown away.
“I also received messages from bands in Greece who offered support. Some of these groups that reached out I am a big fan of and grew up listening to, so the encouragement meant a lot and really motivated me when it came to recovery.”
With Nervecell back on the bill for music festivals next summer, Ramadan plans to get gig-ready by continuing to thrash away at the drum kit at home.
“It keeps me healthy physically and mentally,” he says. “I am living proof that death metal is good for you.”